Feminist Punk Rockers “Pussy Riot” Jailed And Moscow Bans Gay Pride March for 100 Years

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m completely smitten with Pussy Riot. Punk rock feminists are foxy enough, but to be outspokenly so in Russia’s current political climate is even more fierce. For some perspective of the degree of the current clamp down on civic freedoms, Moscow just banned gay pride marches for 100 years. There are currently massive protests in the streets of Russia against President Putin who is now serving a third term, despite risk of fines amounting to more than many make in a year and increasing crackdowns on protestors.

It is in this climate that the group Pussy Riot performed the following Punk Rock Prayer in late February:

(choir)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Рut Putin away, put Putin away

(end chorus)

Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners crawl to bow
The phantom of liberty is in heaven
Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains

The head of the KGB, their chief saint,
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend His Holiness
Women must give birth and love

Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!
Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist
Become a feminist, become a feminist

(end chorus)

The Church’s praise of rotten dictators
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
A teacher-preacher will meet you at school
Go to class – bring him money!

Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, better believe in God instead
The belt of the Virgin can’t replace mass-meetings
Mary, Mother of God, is with us in protest!

(Three weeks after the protest performance, these three alleged members of the group were arrested:

As evidenced in the video montage of the events during the protest on February 21st, masked members of the band Pussy Riot performed the Punk Rock Prayer in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Three weeks later three alleged members of the group were arrested on charges of “hooliganism.” Verzilov, a 26-year-old married to one of the arrested women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, spoke with CNN about why the group is protesting Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church:

Officially it’s supposed to be separated by the constitution, but in recent months the Russian Orthodox Church has become like a supportive propaganda machine for the Kremlin. The patriarch, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, he is a man who enjoys the development of a very close political relationship with Putin. The text of the song was pointing out that Patriarchate doesn’t believe in God but he believes in Putin.

In the months following the arrest, both the international human rights community and grassroots feminists organizations have responded to the jailing of these three women. Amnesty International released a statement on April 3rd criticizing the arrests:

Even if the action was calculated to shock and was known to be likely to cause offence, the activists left the Cathedral when requested to do so and caused no damage. The entire action lasted only a few minutes and caused only minimal disruption to those using the Cathedral for other, notably religious, purposes.

The broader political context surrounding the anti-Putin protests at the time – and the anti-clerical, anti-Putin content of the activists’ message (themselves unpunishable) – have clearly and unlawfully been taken into account in the charges that have been brought against them.

The website Free Pussy Riot argues the arrest of the women for political protest is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW) and the Russian Constitution, with Amnesty International calling the women prisoners of conscience.

In Brooklyn two benefit concerts  have been organized including a show earlier this week coordinated by the feminist organization Permanent Wave attended by Bikini Kill and Le Tigre’s Kathleen Hanna, who spoken out for the group on her blog and created a video encouraging response to their jailing. Tomorrow another benefit concert will be held in Brooklyn at the Knitting Factory, and other shows and events in support of the group  are popping up around the globe.

Political protest and punk are powerful partners as was recently articulated in an NYT Op-Ed “Real Punk Belongs to Fighters”  pointing to political protest punk by groups such as the UK band the Sex Pistols, the Iranian band The Yellow Dogs and the Burmese band Rebel Riot. With their increasingly bold actions Pussy Riot has in no small way brought an international spotlight to  ongoing human rights abuses by the Kremlin with devastating ramifications for women, the gay rights movement and civil freedoms in Russia.

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Jamie lives in Boston and is currently a PhD student in Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a freelance writer and also a team associate for the Boston chapter of Hollaback!.

Jamie has written 79 articles for us.

13 Comments

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    I did not realize that the Russian authorities were so backward and out of touch with the human rights advances made in the civiiized world.

    Revolution is often the answer when authorities crack down on human rights.Perhaps they need one.

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    These women are so fierce in the face of repression. There needs to be a worldwide boycott called of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, into which Russia is pouring huge amounts of money.

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    I’ve seen Neo-Nazi skinheads, charged with “hooliganism” get days to months for murdering ethnic minorities in Russia. It saddens me that more Russians don’t find this appalling. This is the price paid when you pick temporary stability over freedom.

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    I’m from Russia and as Lemon said, the situation IS insane.
    Most of the people I know either SUPPORT the arrest of Pussy Riot or simply don’t give a fuck. Yesterday on the bus I’ve heard something like “of they deserved it, that’s what needs to be done to girls who (and then they said something that I can’t really translate from Russian) don’t stay at home and do things they were born to do (i.e. cooking for their husbands and stuff)”
    People here think that feminism is something teen girls do before “settling down” and the worst thing is that you can’t even say anything, not because you’ll be suppressed but because NO ONE WILL CARE.
    Oh yeah, have you heard of that new law in Saint-Petersburg? My friends were charged 160$ last month for holding hands on the subway.

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    What the fuck, Russia.

    I’m not sure if it’s stressed enough how insanely courageous those three women are. It’d be a big deal if a trio of American women did that in their home country, but that is nothing compared to what it would mean to do that in Russia.

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